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Dietary patterns related to attainment in school: the importance of early eating patterns
  1. L Feinstein1,
  2. R Sabates1,
  3. A Sorhaindo2,
  4. I Rogers3,
  5. D Herrick3,
  6. K Northstone3,
  7. P Emmett3
  1. 1
    Institute of Education, University of London, London, UK
  2. 2
    Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3
    Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  1. Ms A Sorhaindo, Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, WC1E 7HT London, UK; annik.sorhaindo{at}


Objectives: To empirically test the impact of dietary intake at several time points in childhood on children’s school attainment and to investigate whether any differences in school attainment between children who ate packed lunches or school meals was due to who these children were, their pre-school dietary patterns, or to what they ate at school.

Design: Using longitudinal data available in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), multivariate linear regression was used to assess the relative importance of diet at different ages for school attainment.

Main outcome measures: Three indicators of school attainment were used: at ages 4–5 entry assessments to school, at ages 6–7 Key Stage 1 national tests and at ages 10–11 Key Stage 2 national tests. These outcome variables were measured in levels as well as in changes from the previous educational stage.

Results: The key finding at age 3 was that “junk food” dietary pattern had a negative association with the level of school attainment. A weak association remained after controlling for the impact of other dietary patterns at age 3, dietary patterns at ages 4 and 7 and other confounding factors. The authors did not find evidence that eating packed lunches or eating school meals affected children’s attainment, once the impact of junk food dietary pattern at age 3 was accounted for in the model.

Conclusions: Early eating patterns have implications for attainment that appear to persist over time, regardless of subsequent changes in diet.

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  • Competing interests: All authors declare that they had no financial or personal interest with the funding agency or any other agency related to the topic of this article.

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